Familiar Words

It is a new work week new expectations. (I usually sIMG_0583 (1)tart on Tuesdays; my apologies to those who start on Mondays!) A new week is an opportunity in which we want to see our dreams and plans take another step to fulfillment. Although we want to see new hopes realized and new prospects before us, we really like many things to stay the same. Imagine how upset you would be if you came home from work and you discovered that someone had rearranged your whole house. You’d have to search for everything from your socks and shoes to your fry pan to your toothbrush. So then, even those who love change do not want too much change at one time. We love the familiar.

We love the familiar about God and his word. We feel secure in the truth that he will never leave us or forsake us. This is good.

But there is another kind of familiar, when truths seem to have lost their luster and precious words no longer excite. Even glory can seem dull when God’s message becomes overly familiar. Consider the following words that have become overly familiar to many Christians. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:11-13 NIV). They, as you know, are from the Model or the Lord’s Prayer. They have been recited a zillion times by people since the time Jesus taught them. I attended a Christian university where everyone said them together at the beginning of every chapel or church service. It was far too easy to repeat them by rote, instead of praying them from the heart.

Overfamiliarity can fog our senses. Then we stop communicating with God, because the words are not coming from the heart. As I thought about these words from the Model Prayer during a walk yesterday, I wondered about the overfamiliarity that we have when we say them. Do we consciously consider the dependence on the Lord we are confessing? “Father in heaven, we need you to provide bread for us—and everything else we need for life.” But do we really feel that way? Or are we self-sufficient? Are we very self-reliant, until we get in difficult circumstances, when we actually feel our need? Do we look at ourselves in need of forgiveness, or is forgiveness something only needed by those who have been unkind toward us? Are we confident that we can make it through this week victorious, without an everyday dependence on the Lord Jesus (cf. John 15:5)?

Overfamiliarity can lead to spiritual decay. We fail to trust God personally to supply and to act in our lives. Soon the “house of our lives” becomes broken down. Let’s trust God with a full awareness of our need when we pray the Lord’s Prayer and other prayers. May the full reality of Jesus’ words transform us! Lord, work in us by your word!

Grace and peace,


Fellowship with God

This morning we had our weekly guys’ Bible study and breakfast. It was a joyful time of sharing our lives, the scriptures, and prayer with each other. Afterwards, I went for a morning walk to get on my way to my daily goal of ten thousIMG_0482 (1)and steps. It was also time alone to share my life with our Father in heaven.

Fellowship with God… Do you ever feel that you have a hard time knowing that delight? There are occasions when God seems so real and near, and others when we’re filled with doubts and fears and plain loneliness. Have you ever felt like God has deserted you? Many times, those feelings can be diagnosed as consequences of our sins. Thankfully, we always have a way back through Jesus Christ our advocate (1 John 1:6-2:2). But that is not my topic today.

Let’s focus on first steps with fellowship with God. The word translated as fellowship in 1 John 1:3 is koinonia, which means to share, to partner, and to participate. We share life with God, the Maker and Ruler of everything. God has given us life, and this life is in his Son (1 John 5:11). Since this is true, we should consciously and deliberately share our lives with God. This means something as personal as communicating with the Father when you are on a walk. Speak to him about your ideas, aspirations, troubles, and desire to know him better. God designed us to communicate with him daily, and so we ought to open up our lives to him.

Next, fellowship involves partnership. We are God’s fellow workers. He has a plan to make more and more worshipers through the gospel of Christ. Our part is to extend the good news to other people, as we live in faith, hope, and love. At our breakfast this morning, we dreamed about what we would like to see happen and how to get there. Prayer to the Father is a crucial part of this partnership.

Another aspect of fellowship is sharing with people in need. Who are the hurting, pain-filled, lonesome, troubled people in you world today? We only have to open our eyes to see them. How can you share Christ’s joy and peace with someone of them today? It can be as simple as a kind word or an offer to have coffee or tea with them. This is part of your fellowship with God. You and I are Christ’s ambassadors to tell them of the grace and peace they may have.

Fellowship with God today!


God at Work

Thoughts for a Monday on 2 Corinthians 7:5-7

Every disciple or learner of Jesus Christ desires to experience God at work: in the world, in one’s nation and community, in one’s local church, and in one’s own life. We want to see God glorified, people coming to the Lord, and God changing us and providing for us. What we may not want is the way our Father in heaven carries out his activity in our lives. We want God to just speak a word and all will be well. We seem to prefer that the Lord would do it the easy way and act apart from his chosen means, such as the good news about Jesus and the efIMG_0547 (2)forts of his people, especially the latter. Getting people involved means that there will be a mess involved of some sort or another. Since God has chosen to use means in a fallen world, pain will also be part of the process, and we’re simply not happy about pain and suffering and troubles. Like the rest of us, the apostle Paul had to experience troubles as he served the living God. Here he tells his dear brothers and sisters in Christ in Corinth about what he experienced, so that they can know how God is at work in their lives.

God worked through troubling circumstances (7:5). We require reminders about God’s sovereignty. God is always in charge of every circumstance of life (Rm 8:28). Nothing happens apart from his will of purpose, though he permits much that is against is will of precept. God will achieve his plan to bring glory to his name through Christ and his people. But in the day to day accomplishment of his plan, a lot of sinful mess happens. As God’s plan progressively occurs, the Holy Spirit constantly acts with the Scriptures, and in and through followers of Christ to produce the successive steps of change that God has willed. As we are in the midst of the macro, meso, and micro events that the Spirit uses, we can become quite perplexed (cf. 4:8). But our perplexity and troubles do not mean that God has lost control. From our place in the middle of swirling events, it is impossible to see the whole picture, apart from what God has revealed in his word.

Paul, like us, was caught in the middle. And it hurt! It is not easy to be pressed against the grinding wheel as the Lord of heaven and earth sharpens his instruments. God has predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29). Paul says that this affected his entire person, both inside and out. There might be a slight emphasis here on toll this was taking on his body. Since we are a functional unity of physical and spiritual, what affects the one affects the other to some degree.

On the outside there were conflicts. (Notice the plural.) It is impossible to know exactly what these conflicts were, since Paul does not say. He was somewhere in Macedonia at this point, and in that place he had experienced persecution. He seemed to always be in come conflict with false teachers. But at this time, he only mentions conflict in general. Not all our troubles are of our own making. We should realize that Christ’s people may encounter opposition of various kinds from those outside because of Christ and the gospel.

On the inside there were fears. (Notice the plural again.) From the letter we can discern that at least some of these involved Titus and the Corinthians. How was Titus received at Corinth? How had the Corinthians reacted to the painful letter he had sent? Had he caused them too much pain? Had Paul boasted too much about the Corinthians to Titus? Had Titus fallen into physical harm on the trip to or from Corinth (cf. 11:26, travel at that time could be very dangerous)? How extensive was the influence of the false teachers at Corinth? How widespread was the ungodly conduct in the Corinthian believers (cf. 12:20-21)?

I used to build homes. One of the great joys of doing that was that you could watch the steady progress from the site work to handing the keys to the new owner. Each day you could usually start from where you had the previous day. Problems from the weather or vandalism were relatively rare. But not in the gospel ministry where we have an enemy who daily seeks to ruin all we’ve accomplished. For this reason, we need to rely on the Lord in prayer constantly

God worked to comfort Paul (7:6). Here is one of the great “but God” interventions that we see in the Bible (cf. Ephesians 2:4). We need to know these, because we are in ongoing predicaments that would be hopeless, if not for the truth of “but God….”

Here is a reminder about God as the believer’s comforter. This is one of God’s characteristics; the present tense uses shows that it is one of God’s timeless attributes. Who is God? He is Sovereign and he is Comforter. God breaks into the unpleasant, painful, perplexing circumstances of his people to produce comfort. This is who God is. Paul experienced God this way. So will all who reach out in faith to him. This is God’s agenda during the new covenant age. As you read 2 Corinthians, you can see that the book of Isaiah was on Paul’s heart. It tells of the restoration of the God’s people through Christ and the gospel. And now in Christ, the new creation is here, and God is bringing comfort to his renewed people (Isaiah 49:13).

God worked through Titus to bring comfort to Paul. Christ’s people are God’s coworkers, not only in spreading the gospel and doing good works in the world, but also in comforting and strengthening one another. This is why as the temple of the living God (6:16) we should be acting to benefit other believers. God gave comfort through Titus’ presence. Titus was one of the gospel partners closest to Paul, serving as the apostle’s envoy or representative on many occasions. When Titus was on the scene, it was like Paul was there. Now Paul was glad because his dear friend was with him. Sometimes friends just need their friends with them. God gave comfort through the report Titus was able to give about the repentance of the Corinthians. As Paul’s emissary, he was able to give Paul a correct gospel evaluation of their spiritual condition. And it was good news (Proverbs 25:25).

Observe that Paul’s sorrows and joys were not limited by the boundaries of himself. He found joy in what God was doing in the lives of others. This is how our lives ought to be in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:26). Christ’s followers must not live for their own benefit! Others ought always to be on our hearts.

God worked in the Corinthians to produce change in them (7:7). Can people change? Yes, by God’s grace we can! People in Christ can change because Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit.

So then, what happened in the Corinthians? They expressed their longings, which showed that their hearts were opening up to some extent, whether towards Paul or in a far reaching change of mind. They had deep sorrow, which Paul will speak more about in 7:8-11. They developed zeal. The nature of this zeal is unspecified at this point, but he will mention it again in 7:11. Clearly, Christ desires zeal in his churches; he has a distaste for lukewarm people (Revelation 3:15-16). We ought to examine ourselves. Do we have these three characteristics? If not, we are in a worse condition than the church in Corinth.

What their change produced in Paul—joy! Here is hope for those serving Christ. Because God is at work, he can bring joy out of deep sorrow. But there’s more; his joy was greater than before. See the change that God can bring in his people. Paul confessed his conflicts and fears, and those experiences were painful. But now he has a greater joy. It’s a strange path, isn’t it?

In Christ we can know the greatness of God, who comforts the downcast. Yes, our present condition might be filled with conflicts outside and fears within. But God uses them as opportunities to make his surpassing comfort known to us. Troubled believer, through faith in Jesus Christ draw near to God today. Cast your burden on him, and he will sustain you.

An Afternoon Walk in the Garden

Chanticleer Gardens is one of the most wonderful spots to see and experience. It IMG_0467is only a few miles from home in the greater Philadelphia area. In fact, it is known as the only garden of its kind in the world.

After a very busy day of substitute teaching at St. David’s Nursery School, the garden seems to beckon me to stop, relax and enjoy some beautiful moments on my way home from work. It is a perfect place to walk, getting my steps recorded on my Fit Bit. I laugh when I think that man has invented a way to count all our steps, but God had already specifically designed, recorded and directed them (Proverbs 16). I wonder how many of my steps in this life have been taken in a garden.  As a tiny girl I took some of my first steps in my Grandpa’s garden. I have pictures of me stopping to smell a rose in it. However, it wasn’t until years later that I found out my name was in the Bible, when I read the words, “rose of Sharon” in the book of Song of Solomon. Then, later I found that there are the plains of Sharon in Israel. I wondered if the roses there were anything like the ones here.

I’m sitting presently, in the sunshine on a smooth bench that was designed by the artists of Chanticleer.  They have carved carrots, beets, asparagus and pumpkins onto the bench for others and me to rest on. Someone far more creative than I designed it and it sits beside a vegetable garden in Southeastern Pennsylvania. In that garden I see Nasturtiums, and squash vines and vines growing on the arch shaped garden gate. As I pass through it I am reminded that Jesus called himself “the Vine” in John 15. And we are “the branches” that are to grow and produce much fruit as He lives through us! I see a pumpkin vine growing in the corner and a multitude of cherry tomatoes growing on a vine on a trellis opposite the pumpkins. They have yet to ripen and remind me of the fruits of our lives that are there but have not ripened.

At the exit I come to a profuse flower garden where I am surrounded by floral scents. The path worn out in front of me in the grass has been worn to the shape of a cross IMG_0417as it intersects with another through the middle. (Jeremiah 6:16)  Various shades of pink, purple, red, orange, yellow, and white and shades of green delight the eye. A large pink dahlia with petals spreading yellow from its center blossoms like the sunshine. And little purple flowers beneath grow like little buttons amongst their leaves. Tiny pale purple flowers like tear drops

accentuate the greenery. I stand in the middle of this garden so beautiful and thank my God for its color! They are more than the colors of the autumn leaves on the trees in the nearby woods.  Gently blowing in the breeze above them is an exquisite fern like plant with white fronds, called eupatorium. Next to them grow little pale green balls all covered with prickly spines. They are a type of milk weed. Next to them are plants that remind me of blackberries poking up through the grasses. What are all their names? Some people know but the passersby just enjoy them.

I come to a path IMG_0409 (1)where leaves on the trees express beauty in colors of yellow, brown, orange and red. Beside the path grow many green fern turning a light yellow. Because it’s the end of the season as I enjoy Chanticleer, I pause to admire the greenhouse at the back of the garden. I step into a warm pleasant room. The glass building enables me to enjoy the beautiful out of doors nearby. It is given to me by the hard workers of Chanticleer and most of all by my kind, wise, magnificent Father in heaven!

I go on, and hidden on a stone path that goes under a bridge is a beautiful, secluded secret spot. I never noticed it anytime I’ve visited before. I’m sure it’s been uIMG_0437nobserved by many others also. Along it runs the little brook that flows along the north side of Chanticleer. It is a truly silent spot, and I pause here to pray. Presently, it seems like Dave and I are looking for a bridge to get through our housing problems, looking for a place to live. Yet, if we stop and see the beauty all around us we can see our problems in a different perspective.

Stopping to sit in a solitary chair, I contemplate those joys for a few minutes. I live and breathe in the moment watching the sun continue to set; I seem to hear my Savior say, “Someday I’ll show you oh so much more that I’ve created for you to enjoy!” Yes, I thank God for this very special walk through a garden. I exit singing a favorite hymn, “I come to the garden alone”.

Love, joy, and peace,



Much fruit

We arrive at our theme verse for Mission FifteenFive. It communicates a number of ideas that should be at the heart of our way of life and mission into the world (Jn 17:18). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones would often emphasize, we must understand the basics, the foundational concepts, before we hurry on about what we must do. People can be very results or success oriented, and so they immerse themselves into methods or programs. But first we need to begin with thoughts and ideas—and with the most important relationship!

Our Lord restates the illustration about our union with him (John 15:5). “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He wants us to know who and what he is. John uses seven of these “I am” statements in the Gospel of John to tell us the good news about Jesus. He is the life-giver to every branch; we are dependent on him. Every follower of Jesus has this spiritually organic connection to his or her Lord. Stop and think about this. (Did you?) Let this truth fill your mind and permeate your affections. Those who are connected to Christ by faith share in the powerful life of our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord (cf. Romans 7:4-6; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 1:21; etc.) We should cultivate thoughts of our vital link with such a powerful Lord.

Our Lord emphasizes the truth of union and communion with him. “The one remaining in me and I in him this one bears much fruit.” While Christ lives in every branch connected to him, each branch must stay connected to Christ. If we don’t, then we can fall into what I call “the Colossian drift” (Colossians 2:18-23). Besides being in a very precarious position, such a person cannot produce true spiritual fruit. But here, Jesus wants us to lay hold of what can happen in our lives. We can produce “much fruit” for the honor of God. Those who know Jesus Christ want to see his vitality active and productive. We want to show all aspects of godliness, because the purpose of branches being connected to the vine is bear spiritual fruit. When Sharon and I have planted gardens, we have expected the plants to bear fruit or vegetables according to their kind. Any that didn’t were weeded out, because they had no use in the garden. The Lord tells us that he desires “much fruit” from our lives. The good news is that by remaining in Jesus, we will see much fruit appear.

Jesus points out the necessity of dependence on him, “because apart from me you are not able to do anything.” This happens in practice though prayer. Many like to quote Philippians 4:13 as the positive side to what Jesus says here. That is fine, as long as they do not think that the mere quotation of the verse is reliance on Jesus Christ. Our dependence must be personal, conscious, and deliberate. Jesus sets forth a walk of faith in which we rely on him constantly—in the family, with friends, at work, in the gathering of believers, and when we are alone with God. However, we often disagree with Jesus in the way we live, because we act like we can do things without him. Lord Jesus, how much we need your word to change us, not merely in a few activities and our choice of phrases that sound more spiritual to others. Lord, we want to depend on you continually. May all our days evidence our trust in you!

Grace and peace,


Reading the word, part 2

We continue with thoughts about about reading the word of God clearly. Part of the fogginess in our reading comes from a lack of not using tools that enable us to read more clearly. Our cars come with wipers and defoggers to clear the glass so that we can see, but they only work if we use them. Here are some more suggestions about reading the word. Read it:
With others – We are much too individualistic in our Christian experience. Yes, we can affirm “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). But the Lord has also placed us in his body to share life with one another. Yet we seldom think about reading God’s word together. We ought to read the Bible at our gatherings. This assists us in focusing our attention toward God. It is also worthwhile to be reading together as a group throughout the week. In FifteenFive, we do this by announcing a passage that everyone is to read; for example, “let’s read First Thessalonians five times this week”. This helps to develop unity of ideas as we all listen to what God is saying to us from the same passage. It also provides material for spiritual conversations when we meet. To illustrate: Someone might say, “This week as we read First Thessalonians, I noticed how Paul talked about encouraging one another.” And a discussion might branch off from that comment. This way God’s word can affect our thinking as a group of his people.
With faith – Reading the word is an activity for your whole soul, not only your mind (cf. Hebrews 4:2). As we read and listen to God’s words, God expects us to believe and obey. Do we think about believing what we hear, so that it deepens our trust in the Lord? Do we encounter something that we want to draw back from? (This is different than having difficulty understanding what we read.) We are to receive God’s message with a personal and group commitment to or reliance upon it. Some in the group may be struggling with fear issues. Think about how a joint reading of Hebrews 10 or 1 Peter might provide counsel to help one another. What insights can Matthew 10 give the group for spreading the good news? We can believe together what the Lord teaches all of us.
To see Christ – Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the theme of the Bible (John 5:39; etc), we ought to read to see him. Is he on our thoughts as we read? We ought to read to learn more of him, not merely in a gathering of facts, but in knowledge of him personally. Surely, the Holy Spirit makes this happen (Ephesians 3:16-19). However, we should seek to learn of him, since we are learners (disciples) of Jesus. We can easily miss opportunities to meet with the Lord simply because we are not looking to meet him.
To be changed – A clear reading of the word will enable us to see the necessity of ongoing change or growth in grace (2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:22-25). Our lives are to demonstrate continual repentance (change of mind that produces a change of our behavior). So then, we are not to read as detached observers or critics of the people we meet in the Bible. Instead, we come to be instructed and rebuked and transformed (Romans 12:1-2). Reading chapters five and six of Ephesians ought to bring about change in our family relationships. The good news of Jesus should work through our hearts and out to our actions. But again, this requires us to sit under God’s authority in the word to gain insight into the places he wants us to change. If we do not want to change, we will miss many things that our Lord wants us to see clearly.

Lord, give us grace to read clearly,


Reading the word

The other day, I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to see him. He is a specialist and his appointments had stacked up and I was next to last in line. As I talked to myself about waiting calmly, I decided to think about my next article for this blog. I had noticed a picture on the wall of a flower with raindrops on it. They were very clear, and my thoughts turned to listening to God’s word clearly. So, here are some thoughts about how we should read the word.
Intentionally – We will not profit from God’s word as we ought unless we really want to listen to him. It is too easy to get sidetracked, because we fail to realize what we do when we read. The scriptures are God talking to his people at all times. In them we hear his voice. This can be of great spiritual benefit, if we desire to hear him. But we can get distracted. For example, we might read as an assignment, or as a means of spirituality, or to receive therapy. (Perhaps we might not need “therapy” but change!) This means we should approach our reading as the time to listen to our Father communicate with us. We come to hear his wisdom and to reorder our way of life in conformity with it.
Purposefully  – By this I mean reading with a goal instead of reading randomly. This goes along with the first point.  While we can benefit from reading the Bible with any method, others things being equal, I think it is helpful to be reading according to some plan. Many have found it beneficial to read through the whole Bible in a year. This requires reading about three to four chapters a day, which is very doable, if we are willing to prefer the Bible over personal entertainment. While we ought to read all the Bible, it is also helpful to read it in depth, like reading through Matthew twelve times in one year, which is about a chapter a day. Or read through Philippians every day of one month. By the end of this course, we will have a better awareness of what that book says.
Worshipfully – This also is related to the first point. Since the Word is God the Father telling us the story of his glory in his Son, by the Holy Spirit, we ought to read with reverence and joy. The goal is not merely to read to gain information, though that will happen. We ought to read as dearly loved children of the Father. Every part of the story proclaims God’s glory and what is for our good. Since we are in his family, it is our family history. It is the Lord telling us the good news for our encouragement and transformation. Our response ought to be praise and worship to God for making the story, telling us the story, and putting us into the story.
Carefully – This should be a happy outcome from the previous three, but there is another point to be made. While it is often said that people learn in different ways, I think it is wise to ready with paper and pencil or pen nearby. Our minds are bombarded with information and images. It is very easy to forget what we have heard the living God say to us. It can also help us visually connect ideas as we write them down. We can write down questions we have or insights we have gained to share with others.

With prayers for clearer Bible reading,


Thoughts on a believer’s struggle against sin

Most Followers of Christ know that we all are in a spiritual war against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-18; etc.) We all have sins that we individually struggle against, even for many long years. Today, I want us to think about what we should do when there is a pause in the battle against one of these sins; that is, when you no longer sense the old pull of evil toward a particular sin. (Yes, I know that some of you are wishing that you could have one day like that!) Whatever the cause, a time will come when you will enter a pause in the active fight in your struggle against the sins that hinder you. How can you improve the opportunity?

Reconnect with Christ. In part your struggle against the same sins points to some sort of weakness in your communion with our Lord. Look at this lull in the battle as an opportunity to draw closer to him. Read John 15 again and ask for grace for its truth to be real in your life.

Rethink your obsession with these few sins. For example, are you bothered by them simply because you suppose “God won’t like you” if you do those sins, while other sins are acceptable? In other words, our struggle is not against a short list of sins that we feel guilty about for various reasons, but it is against all sins. Read Colossians 3:1-17 and take note about what you feel guilty about doing or not doing. Ask yourself, “Am I more concerned about the social consequences of getting caught doing a sin than about how sin disrupts my worship of God? If we are honest, we will admit that some of our attitudes about sin expose the reality of fearing people rather than God. So then, take advantage of this time to correct this tendency.

Redeploy to a new position on the battlefield. What I mean is this: If certain activities of your life lead you into specific struggles with sin, wouldn’t you be better off avoiding exposure to attacks from the enemy. A wise soldier doesn’t wave to the enemy and yell, “Here I am again; shoot me.” For example, if you’re struggling with greed, stop watching commercials and looking at ads that intend to incite greed.

Redirect your efforts. Part of our weakness comes from passivity in what we do with our lives. It is very easy to be self-indulgent in the stress and hurry of our lives. We like to zone out, instead of taking charge of our way of life. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). But if we let most of our thinking revolve around not doing certain sins, we exhaust ourselves and in the process fail to do what we ought to, like doing good works. (Read Titus and 1 Peter and notice how many times good works are mentioned.) Let me state clearly that we must wage war against sins like anger, fear, greed, and sexual immorality. But I am trying to present a larger vision for our lives. A concern about individual holiness to the near exclusion of gathering with other saints to do good and/or to evangelize is not wise.

Much more can be said on this topic. I hope that this stimulates new activity in your service to the Lord Christ.

Grace and peace,



Remain in the Vine

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:4 NIV). We have called our mission “FifteenFive”; this name is based on John 15:5. Now we have arrived at the “doorway” to that great verse. It should be obvious that Jesus took time to set forth the truth of the believer’s union with him, slowly stating it to let it sink in and permeate our understanding. Let’s invest some time to consider what our Lord and Savior says to us.

First of all, consider that he remains in us. Every believer has a vital, organic connection with the Lord of glory. While many think about the benefits that believers gain from Christ, the Lord Jesus is saying more than that. We are truly joined to him. He continues in us at all times. This is truly astounding! The matchless, infinite, all-powerful, holy Lord remains in us. His presence provides confident expectation (hope) to us, regardless of the circumstances. He continues with us to provide spiritual nourishment and strength to act for his glory and to resist evil.

Second, Jesus tells us to remain in him in the same way that he remains in us. Union with Christ demands communion with him. This is a clear responsibility. It is also a high responsibility: “as I also remain in you” (cf. John 13:34). A command likes this requires that we draw strength from the Vine simply to fulfill it. But the point here is that we sense our responsibility. Spiritual vitality does not simply happen. Nor does it happen by the mere performance of some so-called spiritual disciplines. It happens only as we remain in him as he remains in us. (Some of this repetition of phraseology sounds cumbersome, but I fear we too often lose track of the point, as I have learned from years of teaching the word.) Our commitment to Christ is to mirror his commitment to him.

Third, Jesus wants us to realize that branches cannot bear fruit by themselves. Each branch must remain in the Vine (fellowship with him). Why do we not see spiritual fruitfulness? I think we can retrace our failures back to a lack of personal, persistent contact with the Lord. We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in him. We need to share our lives with him consciously and daily. Prior attainments do not provide present, fresh relationships.

So then, we all need to examine our continuance in the Vine. We must fix our thoughts upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:2; Colossians 2:6). This happens as we listen attentively to the Lord’s voice in the word, and as we talk with him in prayer. Remain in him as he remains in you!